What 2-1-1 IS
- A free, easy-to-access helpline
- An information and referral resource, helping connect people to food, housing, utility payment assistance, health care, transportation, childcare, employment, mental health, disaster information and assistance, and more
- A go-to resource for any essential health and social service needs, using comprehensive, accurate information, and delivering a user-friendly experience
What 2-1-1 IS NOT
- A non-emergency form of direct service, i.e., 3-1-1 or other nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government agencies
- An emergency medical assistance or dispatch line, i.e., 9-1-1
- A tool for surveillance, evaluation of services, or reporting on individuals or agencies
- A replacement for the 9-8-8 suicide and crisis lifeline
Key Components of
2-1-1 Metro Chicago
24/7/365 access to a trained, empathetic specialist via phone, web, and text message
The 2-1-1 system includes protocols for handling all types of requests (including requests that may involve emergency situations) and referral protocols to other helplines and emergency services when necessary. This is a standard element of 2-1-1 systems across the country and ensures that individuals are connected with the appropriate system. Depending on the situation and preferences of the individual, this may include warm hand-offs directly to other helplines/services.
There are no immediate plans to phase out any other funded helplines or resources, most of which provide specialized services that the 2-1-1 operators are not trained to provide. 2-1-1 refers and connects residents to these resources as needed. As the 2-1-1 system develops over time, we will continue to evaluate the best way to provide these services.
2-1-1 does not replace the CES for shelters. At this time, in the City of Chicago, individuals in need of shelter should still call 3-1-1 to initiate their request for shelter services. In suburban Cook County, individuals and families experiencing homelessness or who are at-risk of homelessness should contact the Suburban Cook Call Center at 877-426-6515 or visit www.myentrypoint.org. If individuals do call 2-1-1 requesting shelter, they will be connected with the appropriate system for intake.
The purpose of 211 Metro Chicago is to create greater access to social services in our communities and address the needs of individuals contacting 2-1-1, regardless of their identity and/or status. Emergency services (i.e. police, fire, etc.) are brought into 2-1-1 cases only if the person contacting 2-1-1 poses a threat to themselves or others. Data made publicly available regarding 211 Metro Chicago does not include identifying information. Any additional data sharing requires the consent of the resident and/or the service provider on behalf of and with consent of the resident.
All 2-1-1 services (web chat, text, and phone support with live operators) are available in English and Spanish. Over time, 2-1-1 will build capacity to provide all services (text, web chat, and call-in services) in the most spoken languages in Cook County. 211metrochicago.org has translation available through Google translation services.
United Way of Metro Chicago has hired dedicated staff to operate and manage the 2-1-1 system, including staff members dedicated to updating the database on an ongoing basis. The goal for this system is to have all available free-to-low-cost health and social service resources in the database, regardless of whether these services are funded by government entities. The 2-1-1 system includes strategies to proactively collect information on resources and tap into existing information networks to ensure that the database is up-to-date and includes hyper-local resources. This includes close collaboration with service providers and consistent communication to ensure that 2-1-1 has the most up-to-date information possible. The 2-1-1 team will work to continuously improve and optimize the system. Service providers may email firstname.lastname@example.org with updates and information.
The software that 2-1-1 is using has a function to ‘turn off’ any service entry in the database if that service is at capacity and can no longer take referrals. Communication with service providers is an integral part of the system and there are dedicated 2-1-1 staff whose sole responsibilities are to update resources and communicate with service providers. A critical part of 2-1-1 is the partnership with service providers to provide feedback that allows for optimal functionality and continuous improvement. Service providers may email email@example.com with updates and information.
Although having a central location for health and social service information is a step in the right direction, it does not change the fact that in some cases there aren’t enough resources to match the need. When services are not available, the 2-1-1 system collects this information and shares it with stakeholders to identify service gaps and inform funding strategies.
The 2-1-1 contact center staff are Resource Navigators. They are able to help individuals search for and locate the right resources according to their needs. They engage in conversations with individuals that allow them to assess their situation and screen for additional needs. Navigators can provide a range of services when it comes to referring individuals to resources, from assisting with a direct connection to service providers to simply providing them with contact information. The help and support from the Resource Navigators depends on each individual’s preferences.
The following counties bordering Cook County are already covered by 2-1-1 systems: DuPage County, Lake County, Kane County, McHenry County, and Will County. Referral protocols are being developed as part of the 2-1-1 system in the case that individuals in border areas need to be referred to nearby 2-1-1 systems.